Hampton And Its First Church celebrated at 365th Anniversary

Town Historical Society Plays Host To Hundreds

By Steve Jusseaume

Hampton Union, Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Hanna McLean, 7, of Hampton Falls, spreads a line of bubbles at the
365th anniversary of Hampton celebration. Staff photo by Jay Reiter

HAMPTON - Hundreds of weekend visitors to the grounds of the Hampton Historical Society helped celebrate the 365th anniversary of the town’s founding and the establishment of its First Congregational Church.

Hymn singing at 10 a.m. on Sunday was followed by a worship service, organized Colonial games for the children and trolley tours. The Tuck Museum was open for tours, an Eagle Scout candidate made a presentation and, to close out the festivities, the Historical Society held its annual meeting at 3 p.m.

Sunday’s church services, held on the lawn behind the museum, replicated services held in the town during its early years, beginning in 1638 when the town and the church were formed.

The First Church of Hampton was built on what is now the meetinghouse green off Park Avenue - the site of Sunday’s celebration. The church, or meetinghouse, served as the center of early village life, both for religious services and for town business.

The Sunday service was led by First Church pastor Debbie Knowlton, Mike Mulberry of the North Hampton Congregationalist, Henry Stoney of the Hampton Falls Unitarian Church and the Rev. Michael Griffin of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish.

Patricia Henderson of the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ also delivered greetings.

About 100 people turned out for the service, including several town officials.

"It was a nice service," said Elizabeth Aykroyd, vice chairwoman of the Hampton Heritage Commission. "We had a beautiful morning for it, but it was a little cold," she added, speaking over coffee later in the day, after the early October sun had begun to warm the air.

Many visitors took time to tour the old Hampton village area via trolley. Sponsored by the Heritage Commission, the trolley tours were set up to offer a glimpse of the earlier town.

The Winnacunnet Road/Park Avenue loop included brief stops at the circa 1654 Pine Grove Cemetery, the Ring Swamp Cemetery, the Emery-Jackson House on Park Avenue, the 1922 Centre School and Rand’s Hill, the site of Hampton’s earliest tavern.

Priscilla Triggs-Weeks conducted sessions at the so-called Blakeville School on the Historical Society grounds. A retired Hampton Academy teacher, Triggs-Weeks held 30-minute sessions at the elementary school. The schoolhouse used to be located in the north part of town off Lafayette Road.

In 1961 the schoolhouse was moved to its current location.

At 2:30 p.m., just before the Historical Society annual meeting, Peter Argue, an Eagle Scout candidate from Troop 177, made a presentation on historical buildings in town.

Using an 1841 map of Hampton, Argue had located and inventoried all the buildings still standing. Working with the Heritage Commission, he found that more than 100 buildings were still standing after 160 or more years, including one former home off Lafayette Road that now houses a business.

"I was amazed that so many buildings have survived for so long," said Aykroyd.

The anniversary observance was the town’s first in several years. The last big celebration was in 1988, for the town’s 350th anniversary. That year, a parade was held along Route 1A, and several events followed. About three years ago, a Founder’s Day event was held behind Hampton Academy Junior High. Founder’s Day was discontinued in 2001 because of poor turnouts.

This year’s celebration was held to recognize both the anniversary of the town and the anniversary of the First Church, Aykroyd said.

Bob Dennett, president of the James House Association, also said over coffee and cookies that the day was going well.

"The weather cooperated, and we’ve had a nice turnout," he said.